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Prostrate, my contrite heart I rend,
My God, my Father, and my Friend:
Do not forsake me in my end.

Well may they curse their second birth,
Who rise to a surviving death.
Thou great Creator of mankind,
Let guilty man compassion find. - _Amen_.


O'BRIEN. [1]

[Footnote 1: Rev. John O'Brien, A.M., Prof. of Sacred Liturgy in Mount
St. Mary's College, Emmettsburg, Md.]

The authorship of the "Dies Iræ" seems the most difficult to settle.
This much, however, is certain: that he who has the strongest claims to
it is Latino Orsini, generally styled _Frangipani_, whom his
maternal uncle, Pope Nicholas III. (Gætano Orsini), raised to the
cardinalate in 1278. He was more generally known by the name of
Cardinal Malabranca, and was, at first, a member of the Order of St.
Dominic. (See _Dublin Review_, Vol. XX., 1846; Gavantus, Thesaur.
Sacr. Rit., p. 490.)

As this sacred hymn is conceded to be one of the grandest that has ever
been written, it is but natural to expect that the number of authors
claiming it would be very large. Some even have attributed it to Pope
Gregory the Great, who lived as far back as the year 604. St. Bernard,
too, is mentioned in connection with it, and so are several others; but
as it is hardly necessary to mention all, we shall only say that, after
Cardinal Orsini, the claims to it on the part of Thomas de Celano, of
the Order of Franciscans Minor, are the greatest. There is very little
reason for attributing it to Father Humbert, the fifth general of the
Dominicans in 1273; and hardly any at all for accrediting it to
Augustinus de Biella, of the Order of Augustinian Eremites. A very
widely circulated opinion is that the "Dies Iræ," as it now stands, is
but an improved form of a Sequence which was long in use before the age
of any of those authors whom we have cited. Gavantus gives us, at page
490 of his "Thesaurus of Sacred Rites," a few stanzas of this ancient
sequence. [1]

[Footnote 1: We subjoin this Latin stanza: Cum recordor moriturus,
Quid post mortem sum futurus
Terror terret me venturus,
Queru expecto non securus.]

* * * * *

To repeat what learned critics of every denomination under heaven have
said in praise of this marvellous hymn, would indeed be a difficult
task. One of its greatest encomiums is, that there is hardly a language
in Europe into which it has not been translated; it has even found its
way into Greek and Hebrew - into the former, through an English
missionary of Syria, named Hildner; and into the latter, by Splieth, a
celebrated Orientalist. Mozart avowed his extreme admiration of it, and
so did Dr. Johnson, Sir Walter Scott, and Jeremy Taylor, besides hosts
of others. The encomium passed upon it by Schaff is thus given in his
own words: "This marvellous hymn is the acknowledged master-piece of
Latin poetry and the most sublime of all uninspired hymns. The secret
of its irresistible power lies in the awful grandeur of the theme, the
intense earnestness and pathos of the poet, the simple majesty and
solemn music of its language, the stately metre, the triple rhyme, and
the vocal assonances, chosen in striking adaptation - all combining to
produce an overwhelming effect, as if we heard the final crash of the
universe, the commotion of the opening graves, the trumpet of the
archangel summoning the quick and the dead, and saw the King 'of
tremendous majesty' seated on the throne of justice and mercy, and
ready to dispense everlasting life, or everlasting woe." (See "Latin
Hymns," Vol. I. p. 392, by Prof. March, of Lafayette College, Pa.)

The music of this hymn formed a chief part in the fame of Mozart; and
it is said, and not without reason, that it contributed in no small
degree to hasten his death, for so excited did he become over its awe-
enkindling sentiments while writing his celebrated "Mass of Requiem,"
that a sort of minor paralysis seized his whole frame, so

Terret dies me terroris,
Dies irae, ac furoris,
Dies luctus, ac moeroris,
Dies ultrix peccatoris,
Dies irae, dies illa, etc, etc.

that he was heard to say: "I am certain that I am writing this Requiem
for myself. It will be my funeral service." He never lived to finish
it; the credit of having done so belongs to Sussmayer, a man of great
musical attainments, and a most intimate friend of the Mozart family. -
_Dublin Review_, Vol. I., May, 1836.

The allusion to the sibyl in the third line of the first stanza, "Teste
David cum Sybilla," [1] has given rise to a good deal of anxious
inquiry; and so very strange did it sound to French ears at its
introduction into the sacred hymnology of the Church, that the Parisian
rituals substituted in its place the line, _Crucis expandens
vexilla_. The difficulty is, however, easily overcome if we bear in
mind that many of the early Fathers held that Almighty God made use of
these sibyls to promulgate His truths in just the same way as He did of
Balaam of old, and many others like him. The great St. Augustine has
written much on this subject in his "City of God;" and the reader may
form some idea of the estimation in which these sibyls were held, when
he is told that the world-renowned Michael Angelo made them the subject
of one of his greatest paintings.... In the opinions of the ablest
critics it was the Erythrean sibyl who uttered the celebrated
prediction about the advent of our Divine Lord and His final coming at
the last day to judge the living and the dead.... The part of the
sibyl's response which referred particularly to the Day of Judgment was
written (as an acrostic) on the letters of Soter, or Saviour. It is
given as follows in the translation of the "City of God" of St.

[Footnote 1: As David and Sibyls say.]

"Sounding, the archangel's trumpet shall peal down from heaven,
Over the wicked who groan in their guilt and their manifold sorrows,
Trembling, the earth shall be opened, revealing chaos and hell.
Every king before God shall stand on that day to be judged;
Rivers of fire and of brimstone shall fall from the heavens."


The bright sun was risen
More than two hours aloft; and to the sea
My looks were turned. "Fear not," my master cried.
"Assured we are at happy point. Thy strength
Shrink not, but rise dilated. Thou art come
To Purgatory now. Lo! there the cliff
That circling bounds it. Lo! the entrance there,
Where it doth seem disparted."...

Reader! thou markest how my theme doth rise;
Nor wonder, therefore, if more artfully
I prop the structure. Nearer now we drew,
Arrived whence, in that part where first a breach
As of a wall appeared. I could descry
A portal, and three steps beneath, that led
For inlet there, of different color each;
And one who watched, but spake not yet a word,
As more and more mine eye did stretch its view,
I marked him seated on the highest step,
In visage such as past my power to bear.
Grasped in his hand, a naked sword glanced back
The rays so towards me, that I oft in vain
My sight directed. "Speak from whence ye stand,"
He cried; "What would ye? Where is your escort?
Take heed your coming upward harm ye not."

"A heavenly dame, not skilless of these things,"
Replied the instructor, "told us, even now,
'Pass that way, here the gate is.'" "And may she,
Befriending, prosper your ascent," resumed
The courteous keeper of the gate. "Come, then,
Before our steps." We straightway thither came.

The lowest stair was marble white, so smooth
And polished, that therein my mirrored form
Distinct I saw. The next of hue more dark
Than sablest grain, a rough and singed block
Cracked lengthwise and across. The third, that lay
Massy above, seemed porphyry, that flamed
Red as the life-blood spouting from a vein.
On this God's Angel either foot sustained,
Upon the threshold seated, which appeared
A rock of diamond. Up the trinal steps
My leader cheerily drew me. "Ask," said he,
"With humble heart, that he unbar the bolt."
Piously at his holy feet devolved
I cast me, praying him, for pity's sake,
That he would open to me; but first fell
Thrice on my bosom prostrate. Seven times
The letter that denotes the inward stain,
He, on my forehead, with the blunted point
Of his drawn sword, inscribed. And "Look," he cried,
"When entered, that thou wash these scars away."
Ashes, or earth ta'en dry out of the ground,
Were of one color with the robe he wore.
From underneath that vestment forth he drew
Two keys, of metal twain; the one was gold,
Its fellow, silver. With the pallid first,
And next the burnished, he so plyed the gate,
As to content me well. "Whenever one
Faileth of these that in the key-hole straight
It turn not, to this alley then expect
Access in vain." Such were the words he spake.
"One is more precious, but the other needs
Skill and sagacity, large share of each,
Ere its good task to disengage the knot
Be worthily performed. From Peter these
I hold, of him instructed that I err
Rather in opening, than in keeping fast;
So but the suppliant at my feet implore."

Then of that hallowed gate he thrust the door.
Exclaiming, "Enter, but this warning hear:
He forth again departs who looks behind."

As in the hinges of that sacred ward
The swivels turned, sonorous metal strong.
Harsh was the grating; nor so surlily
Rocked the Tarpeian when by force bereft
Of good Metellus, thenceforth from his loss
To leanness doomed. Attentively I turned,
Listening the thunder that first issued forth;
And "We praise Thee, O God," methought I heard,
In accents blended with sweet melody.
The strains came o'er mine ear, e'en as the sound
Of choral voices, that in solemn chant
With organ mingle, and, now high and clear
Come swelling, now float indistinct away. - _Canto IX_.

* * * * *

Hell's dunnest gloom, or night unlustrous, dark,
Of every planet reft, and palled in clouds,
Did never spread before the sight a veil
In thickness like that fog, nor to the sense
So palpable and gross. Entering its shade,
Mine eye endured not with unclosed lids;
Which marking, near me drew the faithful guide,
Offering me his shoulder for a stay.

As the blind man behind his leader walks,
Lest he should err, or stumble unawares
On what might harm him, or perhaps destroy;
I journeyed through that bitter air and foul,
Still listening to my escort's warning voice,

"Look that from me thou part not." Straight I heard
Voices, and each one seemed to pray for peace,
And for compassion to the Lamb of God
That taketh sins away. The prelude still
Was "Agnus Dei;" and, through all the choir,
One voice, one measure ran, that perfect seemed
The concord of their song. "Are these I hear
Spirits, O Master?" I exclaimed; and he,
"Thou aim'st aright: these loose the bonds of wrath." - _Canto_

* * * * *

Forthwith from every side a shout arose
So vehement, that suddenly my guide
Drew near, and cried: "Doubt not, while I conduct thee."
"Glory!" all shouted (such the sounds mine ear
Gathered from those who near me swelled the sounds),
"Glory in the highest be to God!" We stood
Immovably suspended, like to those,
The shepherds, who first heard in Bethlehem's field
That song: till ceased the trembling, and the song
Was ended: then our hallowed path resumed,
Eyeing the prostrate shadows, who renewed
Their customed mourning. Never in my breast
Did ignorance so struggle with desire
Of knowledge, if my memory do not err,
As in that moment; nor, through haste, dared I
To question, nor myself could aught discern.
So on I fared, in thoughtfulness and dread. - _Canto XX._

* * * * *

Now the last flexure of our way we reached;
And, to the right hand turning, other care
Awaits us. Here the rocky precipice
Hurls forth redundant flames; and from the rim
A blast up-blown, with forcible rebuff
Driveth them back, sequestered from its bound.

Behooved us, one by one, along the side,
That bordered on the void, to pass; and I
Feared on one hand the fire, on the other feared
Headlong to fall: when thus the instructor warned:
"Strict rein must in this place direct the eyes.
A little swerving and the way is lost."

Then from the bosom of the burning mass,
"O God of mercy!" heard I sung, and felt
No less desire to turn. And when I saw
Spirits along the flame proceeding, I
Between their footsteps and mine own was fain
To share by turns my view. At the hymn's close
They shouted loud, "I do not know a man;" [1]
Then in low voice again took up the strain.-_Canto XXV_.

[Footnote 1: _I do not know a man._ St. Luke, i. 34.]

* * * * *

Now was the sun [1] so stationed, as when first
His early radiance quivers on the heights
Where streamed his Maker's blood; while Libra hangs
Above Hesperian Ebro; and new fires,
Meridian, flash on Ganges' yellow tide.
So day was sinking, when the Angel of God
Appeared before us. Joy was in his mien.
Forth of the flame he stood - upon the brink;
And with a voice, whose lively clearness far
Surpassed our human, "Blessed are the pure
In heart," he sang; then, near him as we came,
"Go ye not further, holy spirits," he cried,
"Ere the fire pierce you; enter in, and list
Attentive to the song ye hear from thence."
I, when I heard his saying, was as one
Laid in the grave. My hands together clasped,
And upward stretching, on the fire I looked,
And busy fancy conjured up the forms,
Erewhile beheld alive, consumed in flames. - _Canto XXVII._

[Footnote 1: At Jerusalem it was dawn, in Spain midnight, and in India
noonday, while it was sunset in Purgatory]



HAMLET. Where wilt thou lead me? Speak, I'll go no further.
GHOST. Mark me.
HAM. I will.
GHOST. My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.
HAM. Alas! poor ghost!
GHOST. Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.
HAM. Speak, I am bound to hear.
GHOST. So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.
HAM. What?
GHOST. I am thy father's spirit;
Doomed for a certain time to walk the night;
And, for the day, confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes, done in my days of nature,
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul; freeze thy young blood;
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres;
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porcupine;
But this eternal blason must not be
To ears of flesh and blood.


In a work of this nature, it is essential to its purpose that the
compiler should take cognizance of the many legends, wild and
extravagant as some of them are, which have been current at various
times and amongst various peoples, on the subject of Purgatory. For
they have, indeed, a deep significance, proving how strong a hold this
belief in a middle state of souls has taken on the popular mind. They
are, in a certain sense, a part of Catholic tradition, and have to do
with what is called Catholic instinct. They prove that this dogma of
the Church has found a home in the hearts of the people, and become
familiar to them, as the tales of childhood whispered around the winter
hearth. If it appear now and then, in some such uncouth disguise, as
that which we, are about to present to our readers, we see,
nevertheless, through it all the truth, or rather the fragments of
truth, such as is often found floating about through Europe on the
breath of tradition. The curious legend has been turned by Calderon
from dross into precious gold. He presents it to us in his "Purgatory
of St. Patrick" with a beauty that divests it of much of its native
wildness. He presumably drew his materials for the drama from a work,
"The Life and Purgatory of St. Patrick," published in Spain in 1627 by
Montalvan, a Spanish dramatist. It was translated into French by a
Franciscan priest and doctor of theology, François Bouillon; as also
into Portuguese by Father Manuel Caldeira. When this work was issued
Calderon was wish the army in Flanders. He must have seen it, his
brilliant imagination at once taking hold of it as the groundwork for a
splendid effort of his genius.

We cite here an extract from an introduction by Denis Florence
MacCarthy to his translation of Calderon's "Purgatory of St. Patrick."
It will be of interest as following the thread of this weird legend:

The curious history of Ludovico Enio, on which the principal interest
of this play depends, has been alluded to, and given more or less fully
by many ancient authors. The name, though slightly altered by the
different persons who have mentioned him, can easily be recognized as
the same in all, whether as Owen, Oien, Owain, Eogan, Euenius, or
Ennius. Perhaps the earliest allusion to him in any printed English
work is that contained in 'Ranulph Hidgen's Polychronicon,' published
at Westminster by Wynkin de Worde, in 1495: 'In this Steven's tyme, a
knyght that hyght Owen wente into the Purgatory of the second Patrick,
abbot, and not byshoppe. He came agayne and dwelled in the abbaye of
Ludene of Whyte Monks in Irlonde, and tolde of joycs and of paynes that
he had seen.'

The history of Enio had, however, existed in manuscript for nearly
three centuries and a half before the Polychronicon was printed; it had
been written by Henry, the Monk of Salterey, in Huntingdonshire, from
the account which he had received from Gilbert, a Cistercian monk of
the Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Luden, or Louth, above
mentioned. [1] Colgan, after collating this manuscript with two others
on the same subject, which he had seen, printed it nearly in full in
his "Trias." ... Matthew Paris had, however, before this, in his
"History of England," under date 1153, given a full account of the
adventures of OEnus in the Purgatory. ... Sir Walter Scott mentions, in
his "Border Minstrelsy," that there is a curious Metrical Romance in
the Advocates' Library of Edinburgh, called "The Legend of Sir Owain,"
relating his adventures in St. Patrick's Purgatory; he gives some
stanzas from it, descriptive of the knight's passage of "The Brig o'
Dread;" which, in the legend, is placed between Purgatory and Paradise.
This poem is supposed to have been written early in the fourteenth

[Footnote 1: Colgan's "Trias Thanmaturgæ," p. 281, Ware's "Annals of
Ireland," A.D. 1497.]

A second extract on the subject, taken from the Essay by Mr. Wright on
the "Purgatory of St. Patrick," published in London in 1844, gives
still further information with regard to it.

"The mode," he says, "in which this legend was made public is thus told
in the Latin narrative. Gervase (the founder and first Abbot of Louth,
in Lincolnshire) sent his monk, Gilbert, to the king, then in Ireland,
to obtain a grant to build a monastery there. Gilbert, on his arrival,
complained to the king, Henry II., that he did not understand the
language of the country. The king said to him,' I will give you an
excellent interpreter,' and sent him the knight Owain, who remained
with him during the time he was occupied in building the monastery, and
repeated to him frequently the story of his adventures in Purgatory.
Gilbert and his companions subsequently returned to England, and there
he repeated the story, and some one said he thought it was all a dream,
to which Gilbert answered: 'That there were some who believed that
those who entered the Purgatory fell into a trance, and saw the vision
in the spirit, but that the knight had denied this, and declared that
the whole was seen and felt really in the body.' Both Gilbert, from
whom Henry of Salterey received the story, and the bishop of the
diocese, assured him that many perished in this Purgatory, and were
never heard of afterwards." It is clear from the allusion to it in
Cæsarius of Heisterbach, that already, at the beginning of the
thirteenth century, St. Patrick's Purgatory had become famous
throughout Europe. 'If any one doubt of Purgatory,' says this writer,
'let him go to Scotland (i. e., Ireland, to which this name was
anciently given), and enter the Purgatory of St. Patrick, and his
doubts will be expelled.' This recommendation was frequently acted upon
in that, and particularly in the following century, when pilgrims from
all parts of Europe, some of them men of rank and wealth, repaired
thither. On the patent rolls in the Tower of London, under the year
1358, we have an instance of testimonials given by the king, Edward
III., on the same day, to two distinguished foreigners, one a noble
Hungarian, the other a Lombard, Nicholas de Becariis, of their having
faithfully performed this pilgrimage. And still later, in 1397, we find
King Richard II. granting a safe conduct to visit the same place to
Raymond, Viscount of Perilhos, Knight of Rhodes, and Chamberlain of the
King of France, with twenty men and thirty horses. Raymond de Perilhos,
on his return to his native country, wrote a narrative of what he had
seen, in the dialect of the Limousin (_Lemosinalingna_), of which
a Latin version was printed by O'Sullivan in his '_Historia Catholica
Ibernica.' ... This is a mere compilation from the story of 'Henry of
Salterey,' and begins, like that, with an account of the origin of the
Purgatory. He represents himself as having been first a minister to
Charles V. of France, and subsequently the intimate friend of John I.
of Aragon, after whose death (in 1395) he was seized with the desire of
knowing how he was treated in the other world, and determined, like a
new Æneas, to go into St. Patrick's Purgatory in search of him. He saw
precisely the same sights as the knight, Owain, but (as in Calderon)
only twelve men came to him in the hall instead of fifteen, and in the
fourth hall of punishments he saw King John of Aragon, and many others
of his friends and relations.

We will now select from the drama of "Calderon" a few characteristic
passages, to show how this subject was treated by the glowing pen and
fervid fancy of the greatest of all the poets of Catholic Spain, whose
poetry, indeed, is deserving of more widespread appreciation than it
has yet received at the hands of the Catholic reading public. We will
begin with those lines in which Ludovico Enio, the hero of the tale,
makes known his identity to King Egerio.

LUDOVICO. Listen, most beautiful divinity,
For thus begins the story of my life.
Great Egerio, King of Ireland, I

Am Ludovico Enio - a Christian also -
In this do Patrick and myself agree,
And differ, being Christians both,
And yet as opposite as good from evil.
But for the faith which I sincerely hold
(So greatly do I estimate its worth),
I would lay down a hundred thousand lives -
Bear witness, thou all-seeing Lord and God.

. . . . . . All crimes,
Theft, murder, treason, sacrilege, betrayal
Of dearest friends, all these I must relate.
For these are all my glory and my pride.
In one of Ireland's many islands I
Was born, and much do I suspect that all
The planets seven, in wild confusion strange,
Assisted at my most unhappy birth.

He proceeds with a catalogue of his crimes, most dark, indeed, and
relates how St. Patrick, who was present, had saved him from shipwreck.
The King, however, who is a pagan, takes the Knight into his service,
while he bids the Saint begone. Before they part Patrick asks of him a

PATRICK. This one boon I ask -
LUDOVICO. What is it?
PATRICK. That, alive or dead, we meet
In this world once again.
LUDOVICO. Dost thou demand
So strange and dread a promise from me?
LUDOVICO. I give it to thee then.
PATRICK. And I accept it.

What follows is from a conversation between Patrick and the King,
wherein are explained many of the truths of faith, including the
existence of heaven and of hell. Thus the Saint:

PATRICK. There are more places
In the other world than those of
Everlasting pain and glory:
Learn, O King, that there's another,
Which is Purgatory; whither

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